Green Day, The O2, Thursday, February 8
Such is the complete ease and confidence with which Green Day dispatch their triumphant O2 Arena set tonight, it’s tempting to reach for a bold statement like ‘Green Day are a band reborn!’. It would certainly seem to be the most convenient one to use in terms of narrative after their 2016 comeback album, Revolution Radio, revived the thundering creative heartbeat of a band that all but flat-lined on their ill-fated, somewhat clumsy, ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tré! trilogy of albums. The truth is, however, that this O2 show is not the sound of a band reborn – there is nothing about it that particularly challenges what Green Day do as a live act, or that drives their show into unchartered territory. What it offers instead – which is nothing to sniff at - is Green Day re-approaching the peak of their powers: a band completely re-energised and refocused on being the best version of themselves.
On the one hand, tonight’s set is a master class in balancing the competing demands of their vast back catalogue. It helps that they opt to play a (very) long set to alleviate some of the pressure of choosing what to play – capping things off at 30 songs. Highlights abound, with the usual culprits doing the usual damage: bona fide anthems like Longview, Holiday, Basket Case and American Idiot – which is given a special dedication to Donald Trump – are the kind of sing-along events that the O2 was made for. They are played with precision and exuberance, but they’re also comparatively easy victories for the band. They could play these songs with both hands tied behind their back and they would still go down a storm.
If the members of Green Day should take anything away from tonight, it’s that not only are they capable of getting a whole arena singing songs that have stood the test of time, they can also pull off the same feat with their latest material. During Bang Bang – the first single taken from Revolution Radio - the crowd start singing ‘No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist USA!’ en masse. Entirely unprompted. And that isn’t even on the recorded version, but rather a chant Billie Joe Armstrong started at their performance at the American Music Awards last year. It is just that kind of night.
Credit should certainly be directed towards Armstrong. Tonight reaffirms his status as one of the best frontmen in the world; throughout he reaches even the most distant parts of the cavernous O2. It must be said that some of his trademark methods of doing so are cloying, and none more so than the prolonged ‘eeeeeehhhh ooooooooooh’ call and response he uses at every available opportunity. And yet it would be hard to deny its efficacy. Likewise, for every eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh ooooooooooooooooh that goes ooooooooooon toooooooooooooo looooooooooooong, there are moments that will live long in the memory. One such instance is Armstrong inviting a disabled woman onstage to strum along to a cover of Operation Ivy’s Knowledge. And then giving her his guitar to keep. In moments like this Green Day are imperious.